The End of the Wicked: Psalm 9


Psalm 9 (NIV)

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

My enemies turn back;
    they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
    sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
    you have uprooted their cities;
    even the memory of them has perished.

The Lord reigns forever;
    he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
    and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

15 The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
    their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
16 The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
    the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
    all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
    the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
    let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, Lord;
    let the nations know they are only mortal.

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Psalm 9 is the first acrostic psalm found in the Psalter. An acrostic is a poetical form used to help people, especially the young, to remember God’s Word. Each verse (or phrase, or couplet) of the psalm begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. If it were in English, it would be like having verse 1 begin with A, verse 2 begin with B, verse 3 begin with C, and so on. There are eight of these in the Psalms (Psalms 9/10 [first half of alphabet in Psalm 9, and second half in Psalm 10], 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145). Since acrostics were used in the spiritual training of children, it is worth noting that a survey of all eight of these acrostics reveals foundational themes that Jewish families believed were essential in the proper training of children:

  1. The importance of trusting God, despite all outward circumstances
  2. The importance of learning to love God’s Word and his law
  3. The importance of recognizing the two paths—the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked
  4. Learning the character and nature of God

Psalm 9 brings out two of these themes by calling us to trust in God despite our outward circumstances, remembering the final verdict on the wicked and the final vindication of the righteous. The psalm declares that God alone is the righteous King who “reigns forever” and who “has established his throne for judgment” (v. 7). He is the refuge for the oppressed, and he will protect us and lift us up even “from the gates of death” (v. 13). This psalm shows the final end of the way of the wicked. They will be rebuked on judgment day, their names will be blotted out, and all memory of them will perish. The nations who have put themselves in the place of God will be struck with terror, and they will finally “know they are but men” (v. 20). Paradoxically, asking God to “strike them with terror” (v. 20) in the lives of his enemies is in harmony with Jesus’ admonition to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). It is like praying for a divine intervention that, though painful, has a redemptive goal. It is only when we are confronted (even forcibly and dramatically) with our sins, and only when we have that deep realization that we are living in opposition to God, that we will ever turn to him to receive the grace and mercy so freely offered through Jesus Christ.


Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.